In these times of somewhat frenetic electioneering, a charity leader needs to be even-handed on the party political front. So I was happy to support the West Oxfordshire Conservative Association coffee morning on Saturday in Charlbury. Bought a very nice Victoria sponge from Sarah Potten (her husband later sold me some of their excellent eggs!), and a jar of Seville marmalade. I even met the Chair of the Association. Sarah has an important role to play in village life as she is one of the Parish representatives for selecting our new Vicar. Interviews are on Friday. My only advice: please don't choose an evangelical!
The Bishops’ letter last week continues to stir things up. My sister Lucy sent me a copy from the Chelmsford Diocesan newsletter. All entirely reasonable and sensible. It’s a sign of the times that critics have piled in to condemn. Most of them not having read the letter. Camilla Cavendish in the Sunday Times was right to point out that these critics need to tread with care. The Bishops have made an important point, that there is a lack of discourse about society amongst the political parties.
This is a point ACEVO will address in our third sector hustings on 24 March. It’s time for civil society to have its say in the run-up to polling day. And it is certainly the role of the Church and of other faith groups to be part of the political debate, as it is for charities. Those who criticise the Bishops’ letter should address the issues they raise, not try shooting the messenger.
But I’m afraid at present the stakes are so high for the Parties that they can’t stand any criticism, and try to suppress or distort what they see as criticism of their particular line. This is not good for sensible debate. It undermines democracy and adds to the cynicism people feel for the political process – which is itself, of course, another point the Bishops were making!
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